The Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-dur she was, and her name is remembered in no tale; for she herself had forgotten it, and she said: “I am the Mouth of Romney. . . . Is there anyone in this rout with authority to treat with me?” she asked. “Or indeed with wit to understand me? Not thou at least!” she mocked, turning to Newt with scorn. “It needs more to make a President than a few books, or a rabble such as this. Why, any brigand of the hills can show as good a following!”
–With apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien
Some people like to complain against Jen Rubin, and I suppose there are lots of good reasons for that. On the other hand, I think Rubin performs an invaluable service to individuals who are too pressed for time to follow politics closely. Where else can you go to find out exactly what the Romney camp wants everyone to think at that given moment? I mean, if you ever wonder what Eric Fehrnstrom would say if he had absolutely no fear that anything he might say would come back on Romney himself, Jen Rubin is there to tell you.
Apparently tonight, Mitt Romney wants you to think Newt Gingrich is an idiot. Reading the polls, the reason for this is obvious. Of course, Romney himself can’t say this – that is what Rubin is for. The point of this post is not to defend Newt from this charge; Newt can do that himself. Or maybe he can’t, in which case he’ll stumble back into the pack. It’s nil to me either way.
What I do want to do is to shed a little light on something that is not a secret to literally anyone who has interacted with the Romney campaign. See, during the 2008 campaign I worked for Sam Brownback. During the course of the campaign I became friendly with someone who worked in the Romney campaign’s communications department. After Brownback pulled a Pawlenty and bowed out after Ames, I reluctantly became a Romney supporter (viewing him as a far better choice than McCain). When I announced my support for Romney on the front page, I started receiving a steady deluge of emails from this friend pitching stories that were… well, pretty much exactly like the Newt Gingrich attack piece Jen Rubin wrote today. These pitched pieces always had “NOT FOR ATTRIBUTION” stamped prominently all over them, consistent with the Romney campaign’s pathological fear of actually being responsible for anything that would in the slightest way be dangerous with any set of voters that might potentially someday vote for Mitt Romney.
Now look, nobody is going to criticize the Romney campaign for reaching out to friendly media outlets. That’s what competent campaigns do. But this shopping of cheap hit stories really went to a different level from any other campaign I have interacted with, as was the pathological insistence that the Romney campaign never be identified as the source behind any message that the Romney campaign wanted to filter out. I’m not passing judgment on whether this is good or bad, it’s just how the Romney campaign operates, and there are probably dozens or hundreds of bloggers who could tell you all about it. The hell of it is, Rubin herself has all but admitted that she gets a pretty significant amount of her material this way.
Let us take a moment for grudging admiration for the Romney campaign’s political prowess: they have a competent spokesperson, who they (probably) don’t even have to pay, ensconced as the official conservative voice at one of the nation’s most prominent media outlets. Bravo, team Romney, for learning from the Obama administration’s approach to media relations.